Wind power offers the possibility of onsite generation of renewable energy for residential, commercial and industrial energy users in urban and suburban areas. This form of electricity production has generally been limited to rural and utility applications, but continued improvements have generated new interest in the potential of wind power in urban environments. There are several key elements that determine the viability of urban wind power, the most important of which are turbine technology, wind resources, costs and regulations. This paper will examine these elements with the goal of assessing the current status and future potential of urban wind power. Urban environments present a unique set of challenges to wind power, which demand turbine technology specific to these applications. Buildings create turbulent wind patterns, destroying the constant, steady winds on which utility scale turbines are dependant. Noise, shadow and vibration due to turbines is more important in urban applications, and turbine esthetics becomes a major focus. A new generation of wind turbines is now being produced with these concerns specifically in mind. There are a variety of solutions to these problems, which designers are beginning to explore. An essential element in the success of a turbine is the availability of wind resources. New turbine designs are being produced to utilize lower velocity winds. Additionally, engineers and architects can create better turbine locations through the integration of turbines with building design. Through this integrated design, buildings can contribute to the wind resources by increasing wind speeds and directing wind through the turbine. Available wind and turbulence, along with the characteristics of the particular turbine design, dictates how much electricity can be produced. The third critical aspect of urban wind power is the cost of producing electricity. To gain success, urban wind generators must be cost competitive with other urban applications of renewable energy technologies. The primary competition in this market is from solar photovoltaics, which currently produce power at about 50 ct/kWh. Utility scale wind turbines are not part of this market, and therefore do not compete with urban turbines. Urban turbines have the potential to produce electricity at costs of down to 10 ct/kWh. Future technology improvements, along with increased production, could significantly reduce the capital cost and further reduce the price of generating power. There are also opportunities for tax incentives, feed-in tariffs and other subsidies that can reduce the installed cost of wind power. Finally, regulations and policy can be a major obstacle to urban wind power. This includes zoning and building codes, as well as electronics certifications and interconnection regulations. This paper will examine existing and future turbine technologies, urban wind resource availability and the costs associated with producing energy via urban wind power. It will also identify roadblocks to the implementation and assess the overall viability of this type of renewable energy production.

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